Tired of the Yo-Yo: Confronting Food

“I want to lose weight. I’ve tried diets and workouts. Over my lifetime I’ve been everything from a size 2 to a size 24. I’m ready to deal with whatever it is that’s keeping me fat.” Molly has tears in her eyes.

“Who calls you fat?” I decide to dive right in.

“My kids point out my jiggly arms, my friends comment on my food choices and my Mom tells me that I’m too fat to get a man. I notice when I’m skinny I got more attention from men, better service at stores, and call backs at job interviews. When I’m skinny people like me; when I’m fat people ignore or ridicule me.”

Molly’s right, research has shown overweight and obese people experience discrimination on a regular basis in all areas of our society. Although Molly swims regularly for exercise, people assume she’s a lazy couch potato. Molly has above-average knowledge about nutrition, but people assume she is ignorant, has no will-power and lives on candy, donuts and french fries.

First I learn when Molly last had a physical with her MD (recently), then we get to work. I ask her to keep a food journal for the following week. The goal is not to change what she eats but to notice what and when she eats, what she feels before, during and after, and note when she feels hungry. (Although interestingly research shows the act of keeping a record does change our habits.)

“I learned I really don’t let myself ever feel hungry. I always have some kind of snack around—often healthy—but still, if I feel even a hint of what might be hunger, I eat.” We take some time to work with this feeling of hunger. Turns out as a child Molly struggled with serious stomach issues. Feeling hungry was connected to a fear that something was (legitimately) wrong with her. As we took the time to process these old feelings and experiences her weight began to drop.

Molly is now maintaining a healthy size 6 and has the confidence to stand up for herself. Where might you be stuck in your relationship with food?